The food of New York is as diverse as its inhabitants. Manhattan alone has around 24,000 restaurants. After hours of plunging through the cityscape, I could always look forward to whatever New York offered for dinner that night. Each restaurant below welcomed us with plenty of food and kicked us back onto the street with even more memories to share.
Having hardly scratched the surface of the Big Apple, we spent our first-night dining at an Italian restaurant called Puglia’s. Cradled within a brick building steaming with thick air and smelling of spices, we were greeted with the best Italy had to offer. Tossed salad, garlic bread, parmesan chicken, cannoli, rigatoni, and the classic spaghetti and meatballs all reached our table by the end of the night. A stout middle-aged man and his keyboard then delighted us with his ballads, which we all sang along to. The night blessed us with the “napkin dance” in which we all stood on our chairs while flailing our napkins and yodeling along with the keyboard. Another tour group arrived from Illinois and tried to wail louder than we, we crushed them, we tipped the stout man, and then we absconded back into Chinatown.
Ellen’s Stardust Diner
Ellen’s Stardust Diner is famous for its singing waiters and waitresses who aspire to reach Broadway. Both floors were packed, and the shrieks of the audience kept the disco ball bobbing and the sugary Pepsi flowing. Foods served included sirloin steaks, chicken marsala, pasta pomodoro with chicken, and salads. There was never a moment of silence: every ounce of air was occupied by the wails of waitresses and the thud of random soundtracks over the speakers. However, the real sore thumb of the night was Kyle Kuhn, who stood up and stood out when one of the waitresses asked the audience if there were any birthday boys or girls present. It was not Kyle’s birthday, but it was his time to shine. The spotlight was on him as the waitress called him out, chanting along with the audience “You’re a dirty little liar!” Straw wrappers were thrown. More preteens shrieked. Both Kyle and the night slowly wound down, and the rest is a blur of confetti filled Pepsi Cola.
Sticking to Chinatown, our group eventually meandered its way up the stairs of The Golden Unicorn. The food was Chinese, the food was hot, and the food was being piled onto our table constantly. By the time the teapot had been emptied, there was no room for elbows on the dinner table, just empty plates. That mountain of food dumped an avalanche of teriyaki sticks, chicken, vegetables, fried noodles, rice, jasmine tea, and dumplings down our throats. Even so, this didn’t stop Robert Stark from rapping some verses from Hamilton! Nor did it stop Abby Ralston from filming it. The video never made it into the blog, a shame, a shame which I promised Robert he would soon appreciate.
A pleasantly ramshackle building with a basement to coral its many customers, Mama Sbarro’s offered even more food than The Golden Unicorn. The Italian buffet had three stages: the buffet with breadsticks, spaghetti, and meatballs galore, a pizza line, and a desert line composed of chocolate and cheesecake. The plates were stacked against us, so few of us managed to vacuum down the onslaught of carbs. This was despite the fact that the waiter performed a tambourine chant with us beforehand. With a few gasps and the shake of his tambourine, he performed marginally better than the blokes at Ellen’s Stardust Diner.
The pilgrimage back to Indiana was a tiresome one. A delayed flight, a sprint through an airport, and more baggage under our eyes than in our hands, this was by far the most stressful part of the trip. Driven mad by the sight of clouds gulping down stars on the bus ride home, our hunger overcame us. Finally past our lame detour through New York, we finally arrived at the really destination: Taco Bell. Problem was, we had reached the treasure we had so arduously fought for, but the treasure was closed. Only the drive through was open. So, some improvisation happened. Money was scrounged up, and about two thirds of the group fell out of the bus and into the Taco Bell drive through. For reasons I cannot begin to understand, they were rejected. Then the parking lot’s resident night dweller, a woman in a Honda Accord, offered to buy the food for them with their money. Long story short, she marched back to us—burritos slipping out of her pockets—we thanked her, then left. Amen.